Private hospitals challenge UMC expansion

JACKSON – Major area hospitals are looking to state health officials to make the next move in a yearlong clash over how large and advanced the University of Mississippi Medical Center can become without regulation.
UMC in Jackson must get state approval before embarking on major construction projects or buying expensive, high-tech equipment, according to an opinion issued last week by the state attorney general’s office.
However, the state Department of Health may grant permission on a case-by-case basis, even if the academic medical center cannot prove a regional need for a certain facility or service, the opinion states.
Health Department representatives would not comment on the opinion last week, saying the department’s attorney was out of town.
The clash began last year when UMC filed an application with the Health Department to obtain equipment used in radiation treatment for cancer patients.
“As the state’s only academic health sciences center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is obligated – and is required by its accrediting bodies – to train future physicians, nurses, dentists and allied health professionals in modern facilities using state-of-the-art technology,” Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, said in a statement.
UMC officials have said the medical center is striving to transform its image from the area’s charity hospital to the hospital of choice.
Hospitals in competition with UMC oppose the equipment acquisition, saying UMC did not prove a regional need.
A 24-year-old state law requires hospitals to petition the Health Department for a certificate of need before building additional hospitals or clinics or purchasing major equipment.
The point is to control medical costs paid by the government and to prevent unnecessary duplication of resources.

Kathleen Baydala/The Clarion-Ledger